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University students fear pregnancy, not HIV!

By Brian Guserwa | October 21st 2016

It is a scary time to be a university student in Kenya.

Statistics indicate that the rate of HIV infection among university students is higher than ever. Recent reports from the World Health Organization Reference Centre ranked Kenyan universities according to their HIV prevalence. According to the findings, the University of Nairobi (UoN) has the highest prevalence at 15 per cent, while Strathmore University had the lowest rate at 2 per cent.

For most university students, this information is not too surprising; given the lifestyles they see their colleagues living. According to Mary, a business administration student from UoN, ‘sponsor’ relationships play a role in exposing students to the virus.

“I think university students are at a greater risk because of their relationships with older people, who are probably married. Ladies, for example, carry on several sexual relationships in addition to the one they have with their sponsors. Naturally, if they have unprotected sex with any one of these people, it starts off a chain,” she says.

Alex, a fourth-year agribusiness student at Kenyatta University, believes campus ladies are no longer wary of the deadly disease.

“They are more concerned about not getting pregnant,” he says. “It is okay to visit them without a condom, but you must buy the P2 emergency contraceptive. Somehow, they stopped worrying about HIV/AIDS or STIs,” said Alex.

Patricia, another student, attributes the rampant sexual activities in universities to the fact that students in campuses have nothing else to occupy them, so they resort to sex.

“It mostly happens within hostels. The male and female living areas are right next to each other, and there is no rules restricting movements between them. So, male students can enter female hostels at will, and vice versa. When you have students living this close to each other, with nothing else to do, they are bound to engage in sex,” he added.

Universities have however disputed these findings, questioning the authenticity of the report and the research methods.

Michelle, a counselling psychologist at Kenyatta University’s VCT Centre, told Campus Vibe that the actual rates of infection at the university are much lower. “We conduct regular testing at the university,” she says, “If the VCT Centre gets less than five students coming in for tests in a day, how was this research conducted? We have our own data; the numbers are not that high.”

Professor Erastus Njoka, the Vice Chancellor at Chuka University has encouraged universities to implement policies that encourage morality among their students. Chuka University had the joint lowest rates in public universities according to the study.

“At Chuka, we meet our students regularly and talk to them about morality. We test them periodically, which I think also helps discourage reckless behavior,” says Professor Njoka.

“They came to university to study and nothing else,” he added.

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